Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Tribute to Major Taylor

Today was the funeral of Major Brent Taylor, the North Ogden mayor and member of the Utah National Guard who was killed in Afghanistan.  Like so many in Utah, my family has been moved by his story and incredible sacrifice, and though we do not know him or his family personally, we mourn their loss.  He was described as a “true patriot” and “great soldier” and “a true and loyal friend.”  The praise for his exceptional life and service reminds me of what was said in the Book of Mormon when Teancum similarly gave his life for his people: “Now it came to pass that when Lehi and Moroni knew that Teancum was dead they were exceedingly sorrowful; for behold, he had been a man who had fought valiantly for his country, yea, a true friend to liberty; and he had suffered very many exceedingly sore afflictions” (Alma 62:37).  Thinking about the sacrifice of Major Taylor, especially in conjunction with Veteran’s Day, has caused me to reflect upon so many who have given so much.  As the Korean War Veterans Memorial states, “Freedom is Not Free.”  But oh, what a price has been paid by those who have given everything for that freedom, a price that I admittedly know nothing about.    

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Records of Abraham

In his own record Abraham wrote this about the sacred writings he had in his day: “I shall endeavor, hereafter, to delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time….  The records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day” (Abraham 1:28, 31).  It’s not clear exactly what records he had, but likely they came down from Adam and through the patriarchs to him.  They most likely had the words of Adam, Enoch, Noah, and others.  They of course would have had to pass through the hands of Noah and have been on the arc during the flood.  And what happened to these records of Abraham?  Undoubtedly, he passed them on to Isaac, who would have passed them on to Jacob and then to Joseph.  They may have even ended up in the hands of Moses after many years in Israelite bondage, for there are a lot of similarities between the account of Moses and that of Abraham, particularly in the story of the Creation. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

In Similitude of the Savior's Sacrifice

One of the themes of the vision of the redemption of the dead in Doctrine and Covenants 138 is that of sacrifice.  President Smith started by talking about the “great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world” (v2).  He said again that “redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross” (v35).  Towards the end of the revelation he similarly stated that redemption comes “through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God” (v57).  These all refer to the sacrifice that the Savior made, but he also spoke about the sacrifice that we make.  He said that the spirits of the just were those “who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name” (v13).  Of course the sacrifices that righteous mortals make are nothing in a direct comparison with the infinite sacrifice that Jesus made, but still we are required to make sacrifices that mimic what He did. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lessons from the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead

I think we learn several things about the Spirit World from President Joseph F. Smith's vision in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  The most obvious takeaway of course is that there is an organized missionary effort to preach the core principles of the gospel to those who have not yet accepted it.  In addition to that, we get a sense that the righteous will be gathered together in one general spot and that the wicked will be in their own spot.  We see that in the fact that he saw that "there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just" and that where the spirits of the wicked resided "darkness reigned," suggesting that there was some kind of natural separation between these two groups (v12, 22).  We also see that spirits there have the same kind of emotions as we have here, for "they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand" (v15).  The spirits of the dead converse and communicate just as we do here, for President Smith saw that "this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death" (v18).  They could even sing without bodies: "They sang praises unto his holy name" (v24).  Being in the Spirit World will not dramatically change our emotions or our way of communicating with others. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Burning

I recently finished listened to an account of a major book burning ceremony done by the Nazi party in May 1933.  I was appalled to hear how they gathered every copy they could find of 4000 different book titles and essentially forced the people to participate in the burning of the books not in harmony with their ideals.  Well-known authors commonly read in schools today, such as Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Jack London, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Helen Keller, had their books burned as part of the attempted purging of the Nazi party seeking to get all to conform to their ideology.  Helen Keller commented, “You may burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas those books contain have passed through millions of channels and will go on.”  Heinrich Heine, whose books were among the, had written in one of his plays a century before, “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.”  This of course proved prophetic when the regime performed the unthinkable as it attempted to implement the plan of the adversary: “to destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3). 

Monday, November 12, 2018

President Joseph F. Smith's Witness of Death

In his recent conference talk, right after the death of his own wife, President Ballard discussed the life of his great-grandfather Joseph F. Smith.  He highlighted how understanding how often President Smith was confronted with death, both of loved ones and others, helps put the revelation he received on the redemption of the dead in context.  Joseph F. Smith came into the world and left it at two times when death was all around him.  He was born in November 1838 in Far West, at the time that the Saints were being killed and driven from the state under Governor Boggs’ extermination order issued about two weeks before his birth.  President Smith died in November 1918, shortly after he received the revelation, a time when the Saints and the world “grieved over the death toll in the Great World War that continued to climb to over 20 million people killed.  Additionally, a flu pandemic was spreading around the world, taking the lives of as many as 100 million people.”  In between he also witnessed premature deaths on the Mormon trail from Nauvoo to Salt Lake; lived to witness from afar the bloodiest war in United States history (the Civil War); and saw the deaths of Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow, all of whom he was a counselor to in the First Presidency. 

The Love Made Manifest by the Father and the Son

We rightfully speak of the great love that our Savior Jesus Christ showed when He offered His life as a sacrifice for all the world.  Moroni put it this way when he spoke to the Savior, “And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightiest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men. And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity” (Ether 12:33-34).  Nephi testified in a similar manner, saying, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Nephi 26:24).  In our dispensation the Savior declared to Orson Pratt, that He was “Jesus Christ your Redeemer… who so loved the world that he gave his own life” (Doctrine and Covenants 34:1-3).  In mortality, the Savior declared to His apostles shortly before He voluntarily gave up His life, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  No one took His life from Him, but He voluntary gave it up for us, and He did it out of love for His Father and for us.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Stand Independent

I have been listening to Gerald Lund’s latest historical fiction novel that just came out, and this one covers part of the time of the Great Depression for the family that lives in Utah.  In one scene, the father/grandfather of the family gathers his children and grandchildren together for a family council to discuss how they can survive the very difficult financial times that they are in.  In the story he reads this passage from the Doctrine and Covenants with his family to set the stage for their discussion: “Behold, this is the preparation wherewith I prepare you, and the foundation, and the ensample which I give unto you, whereby you may accomplish the commandments which are given you; That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:13-14).  The general message as they interpreted it in the book for their family was that they needed to be stand independent despite the terrible challenges they were facing.  They realized that needed to focus on doing everything they could to prepare for the tribulations that might come to them and be able to “stand independent” as a family in the midst of very trying times.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Doth Salvation Come by the Law?

When Abinadi was speaking to the priests of Noah, he asked them what they taught the people.  They responded, “We teach the law of Moses.”  He questioned them as to why they didn’t keep the law themselves if that’s what they taught, and then he queried them saying, “And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?”  This would be like him asking us today, “Does salvation come by keeping the commandments?” (Mosiah 12:28-32).  On the one hand we would emphatically answer no, since salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, as King Benjamin taught, “And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17).  But on the other hand, we might want to answer yes, since we will only be saved if we keep the commandments as the Savior Himself declared in our day: “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).  So what is the right answer to Abinadi’s question?    

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Catastrophe of Zeniff's Group

After Amaleki wrote about the departure of the Nephites from the land of Nephi down to Zarahemla, the group led by Mosiah I, he told how some wanted to return up to the land of Nephi in these words: “And now I would speak somewhat concerning a certain number who went up into the wilderness to return to the land of Nephi; for there was a large number who were desirous to possess the land of their inheritance.”  We read that the outcome of this first trip was not good: “Wherefore, they went up into the wilderness. And their leader being a strong and mighty man, and a stiffnecked man, wherefore he caused a contention among them; and they were all slain, save fifty, in the wilderness, and they returned again to the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:27-28).  They had gone into the wilderness to try to retake land from their enemies, and yet they couldn’t even get along as a group themselves and so their trip ended in bloodshed with all but 50 dying (we don’t know how many originally went).  The only explanation that Amaleki gave for the fighting was that their unnamed leader was “a strong and mighty man, and a stiffnecked man”—what a tragedy that the stiffneckedness of one man would cause such bloodshed among a group who all chosen to go together in the first place!